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  • Author or Editor: Jennifer H. Dennis x
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As the diversity of the American population increases, so should efforts to understand gardening behavior of different subcultures. Businesses need this information to effectively target these consumer groups, and improve their level of product satisfaction. An Internet study of gardening activities was conduced in Sept. 2004, with a sample of 1591 individuals, but over sampled for African-, Hispanic-, and Asian-Americans. Results showed many differences in the purchases, enjoyment, expenditures, and product satisfaction for these groups compared to the Caucasian sample. More Caucasians had mowed their own lawn in the year prior to the study (60.2%) than African-Americans (47.1%), Hispanics (50.4%), or Asians (50.5%). More Caucasians (58.2%) had participated in flower gardening than African-Americans (33.5%) or Hispanics (44.1%), but similar to the percentage of Asian-Americans (50.9%). However, a similarly high percentage of Asians had participated in fruit, vegetable, or herb gardening (33.8%), compared to Caucasians (33.5%). Both groups participated in fruit, vegetable, or herb gardening more than African-Americans (16.3%) or Hispanics (26.7%). Hispanic gardeners spent 7.3 hours in the garden on average each week, compared to 6.7 hours for Caucasians, 6.5 for Asians, and 4.7 for African-Americans. Yet, Hispanic (3.8) and Asian (3.8) gardeners rated their level of outdoor gardening enjoyment (7-point Likert scale) higher than African-Americans (3.1) but lower than for Caucasians (4.0). This first glimpse of non-Caucasian gardeners shows businesses should target these groups for specific gardening products and may have some extra work to do to improve their level of satisfaction and enjoyment.

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In Sept. 2004, an Internet study was conducted to evaluate and determine differences in gardening participation, purchases, and levels of satisfaction and regret by ethnic background. Consumers were asked to identify their participation in seven gardening activities and about the purchase of 12 gardening product categories. The sample was stratified by income and age. The number of differences in garden-related activity participation and purchases decreased as income level increased across ethnic groups. At every income level, persons of Caucasian descent had a higher satisfaction average score and factor score and higher regret mean score and factor score. This indicated that Caucasians did experience greater satisfaction and less regret than persons of other ethnic backgrounds, regardless of income. For marketers, this shows a heterogeneous market at lower-income levels and a more homogeneous market at upper-income levels. Ethnicity could be used as a basis for market segmentation, and differences are indeed present.

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Nationally, the number of operating farmers' markets has increased 111% from 1755 markets in 1994 to 3706 in 2004. Indiana's farmers' markets have increased at double the rate in the same timeframe. An Internet and mail census was sent to market managers to assess operational procedures and factors that influence customer and vendor participation in the market. A two-stage least squares model was estimated for the vendor and customer model. Paying fees and the number of customers present were the two variables that had a significant, positive influence on vendor participation. The presence of WIC, number of products available, the absence or presence of live music, absence or presence of cooking demonstrations, and number of vendors were significant for the customer model. The absence or presence of concession stands and picnic areas was significant at the 0.10 level in the customer model.

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`Cortland' is an apple cultivar with inherent poor storeability because of excessive vulnerability to the development of superficial scald in long-term storage. The objectives of this investigation were to evaluate the potential of the potent ethylene action inhibitor 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP; EthylBloc®) to counteract this constraint and to develop some basic procedures for its exposure. Eight hours after harvest, fruit were exposed to 1.0 mL·L–1 1-MCP for 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 16, 24, or 48 h at 3, 13, or 23 °C. Following exposure, fruit were placed at 0 to 1 °C in air for 120 days, after which time they were removed to 20 °C and held 7 days for post-storage assessment of ripening and to allow development of physiological disorders. In general, and within our experimental limits, the higher the temperature of 1-MCP exposure the shorter the required exposure time to obtain similar effects. The desired effectiveness of 1-MCP could be achieved by exposing fruit for at least 3 h at 23 °C, for 6 h at 13 °C, or for 9 h at 3 °C. 1-MCP-treated apples were consistently 2 kg firmer than untreated apples. Scald incidence in untreated fruit after 120 days at 0 to 1 °C and 7 days at 20 °C was 100%, whereas 1-MCP reduced scald by 95% in treatments of long enough duration at any particular temperature.

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Flesh softening is a major quality parameter that can limit long-term storage of apple cultivars. This study investigated the combined effects of preharvest AVG (Retain™) application, 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP; EthylBloc™) exposure at harvest, and commercial controlled atmosphere (CA) storage (2.0% O2 + 2.5% CO2) on flesh softening of `Empire' apple. Treatments were assigned in a split-split-plot experimental design; AVG and no AVG application as the main-plot, CA and air storage as the sub-plots, and 0, 0.1 0.5, 1.0 mL·L–1 1-MCP as the sub-sub-plots. Apples were removed from storage at 70 and 140 days after harvest and kept up to an additional 2 weeks at 20 °C for post-storage assessment of ripening. Preharvest AVG application of `Empire' fruit delayed maturation slightly as determined by starch index at harvest, but did not affect fruit size at harvest nor flesh softening in storage. All levels of 1-MCP were equally effective in controlling fruit softening both in air and CA, as 1-MCP-treated fruit were ≈2.5 kg firmer than untreated fruit. This firmness advantage was still evident even after 2 weeks at 20 °C, with CA-stored fruit holding their firmness the best. When all three technologies were combined, treated fruit were overall 156% firmer than control fruit (no AVG, no 1-MCP, air-stored). As well, ethylene production and emanation of aroma volatiles were reduced significantly in these fruit. Therefore, the synergism of AVG, 1-MCP and long-term CA storage could potentially hold flesh firmness and other ripening parameters of apples to values near those found at harvest.

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Wounding during processing triggers physiological reactions that limits shelf-life of fresh-cut apples. Exposure of `Empire' and `Crispin' apples at harvest to the ethylene antagonist 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP, SmartFresh™) on the maintenance of fresh-cut apple quality was evaluated in combination with post-cut dipping of NatureSeal™. Efficacy of 1-MCP on fresh-cut physiology and quality depended on the storage duration and apple cultivar. Ethylene production and respiration of apple slices were inhibited by 1-MCP but not by NatureSeal. Total volatiles produced by fresh-cut apples was not affected by the treatments. 1-MCP influenced the quality attributes of fresh-cut apple slices prepared from apples stored either 4 months in cold storage or 6 months in controlled atmosphere. Enzymatic browning and softening of the cut-surface, total soluble solids, and total microbial growth were suppressed by 1-MCP in `Empire' apples. Overall, the influence of 1-MCP on quality attributes in `Crispin' apple slices was marginal. NatureSeal consistently maintained the firmness of fresh-cut apple slices held at 4 °C for up to 21 days. The additive effect of 1-MCP in the maintenance of apple quality is an advantage for processing and marketing of fresh-cut apples.

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In recent years, the commercial greenhouse industry has begun to implement sustainable production practices. However, floriculture certification programs for sustainable production practices are a relatively new phenomenon in the United States. Between July and Oct. 2008, a commercial floriculture grower survey was conducted to determine potential barriers to sustainable floriculture certification. Using a logistic regression model, seven potential areas were evaluated: risk, profitability, economic viability, prior experience, education, operation size, and customer types. Although respondents had positive attitudes toward sustainability and had adopted sustainable practices, respondents had little knowledge and interest in U.S. certification.

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Customers take some risk when they buy plants, and the emotions they experience from that purchase are important indications of whether they will return to buy again. Previous research by Dennis et al. showed that regret, a negative emotion, caused consumer switching behavior by their intentions to either buy an alternative product, purchase products from an alternative retailer, or switch out of gardening entirely. What happens when things go right? Customer satisfaction has been the metric businesses use to quantify success in customer retention. If customers who regret the purchase switch, do happy customers return to buy again? This research investigated the role of customer satisfaction, delight (a positive emotion), and prior plant knowledge on repurchase intentions. An Internet survey with 659 flowering plant purchasers throughout the U.S. was conducted in Sept. 2004 to examine the initial purchase and the actual performance of the plant following purchase.

Data were analyzed using structural equation modeling with LISREL software. Results showed that customer satisfaction level and delight were not affected by prior plant knowledge. Satisfaction level did not affect repurchase intentions, but customer delight did. Results were consistent with existing literature, indicating that greater emphasis should be placed on delighting consumers, rather than merely satisfying them.

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Michigan State Univ. researchers surveyed 777 gardening consumers in an Internet survey on 24 Sept. 2003 to determine consumer perceptions of satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and regret of three horticultural products: hanging baskets, potted roses, and 1 gallon perennials. Consumer satisfaction has been studied in a horticultural context before, however, to our knowledge this is the first time emotion research, specifically regret, has been applied in a horticultural setting. Regret is an emotion experienced from a negative valenced reaction to an event such as a dead or dying plant. Consumer satisfaction/dissatisfaction is a state of being derived from the expectation and performance of a particular product. Based on work from a doctoral dissertation, the objective was to investigate the behavioral consequences associated when gardening consumers experienced dissatisfaction or regret toward these three products. Questions were asked to pinpoint levels of dissatisfaction and regret and whether they switched from the product based on feelings of dissatisfaction and regret. About 27% (202) of respondents expressed some level of dissatisfaction or regret about the products specified in the survey. Results show regret drives switching behavior and those that experienced regret with their products were more likely to switch. Approximately 10% of gardening consumers switched to another activity outside of gardening because of failure of the plant purchased to perform where as 13.5% switched to another type of plant to remedy the situation. Regret has been shown to strongly influence repurchase behavior based on being an emotion. Results also indicate although dissatisfaction is unfortunate, it does not have the same effect on switching behavior.

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Consumers face risks each time they purchase and consume products. Guarantees provide a means of potentially decreasing risk for products that cannot be evaluated until consumption has begun, as with ornamental plants. Despite the potential risk reduction, the effect of guarantees on consumer purchases has been a source of debate for many retailers. Research conducted at Michigan State Univ. examined the effects of guarantees on consumer satisfaction and regret of three horticultural products: hanging baskets, potted roses, and perennials. Over half (56%) of respondents stated the retail outlet provided a guarantee. Twenty-six percent stated the guarantee was a deciding factor in choosing that particular plant while 27% stated it was the deciding factor in shopping at that particular retail location. Results show that guarantees reduce risk for consumers, reducing the incidence of regret but have no effect on customer satisfaction.

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